Completeness is its own kind of extravagance. It enables risk. The completeness I speak of is given to us when an artist finds a union between imagination and voice which is set as a seal, neither one or the other in combat for supremacy. A word, a note becomes as much a physical fact as an imagined one. The muscle leads the mind and surprises it with a knowledge of deep things. To achieve this requires much work. To become a babe again, to let out a cry of pure delight is the task of a lifetime. Being finished vocally is one thing (conservatories often stop here), achieving a unity of mind and muscle quite another.
If you ever need proof of Shakespeare’s universal appeal, stop by Rome’s Globe Theatre. Within a single evening you’ll be convinced that the Bard, disarmed of dactylic hexameters, can still speak to everyone and anyone.
All the more so to Italians when it comes to As You Like It (Come vi piace). Their temperament — irascible, passionate, effusive — stands opposite that of the English but squares precisely with what Shakespeare wanted to lampoon in this subtle masterpiece. Rosalind (Melania Giglio) is so sickly in love with Orlando (Daniele Pecci) that she can barely maintain her act as “Ganymede” in his presence. Duke Frederick (Nicola D’Eramo) hates his brother (also played by D’Eramo) so fiercely that anyone who reminds him of Duke Senior is mindlessly banished from the dukedom. Silvius (Patrizio Cigliano) dotes on Phebe (Barbara Di Bartolo) so cloyingly that the audience would gladly join her in strangling him if only he weren’t so hysterically funny. Each character is a caricature of Italian emotional excess, and no one can make fun of emotional excess better than the excessively emotional Italians.
Henry V by William Shakespeare, directed by Des McAnuff, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Ontario
The prologue to Henry V is not only an appeal for the audience to indulge its imagination. It is an encomium to the art of acting and its capacity to teach us how to live. It sharpens our sensibilities to the parallels between drama and reality, the stage and the world, the past and the present. It evokes sympathy in us for ourselves as much as for the actors, and it prepares us to recognize a moral lesson in every chronicle. So when he has the Chorus urge us to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts; / Into a thousand parts divide on man / And make imaginary puissance,” Shakespeare puns on the plural pronoun, hinting that he is about to effect a catharsis, a flushing out of our “imperfections” in the very act of pretending that what happens on stage is real.
Sophocles’ Elektra, translated by Anne Carson, directed by Thomas Moschopoulos – until September 27, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Ontario
Before this play even begins, one can understand why artistic director Des McAnuff was so taken with Thomas Moschopoulos when he saw a production of the latter’s Alcestis at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus a few years ago. As you settle into your seats for this production, members of the cast mingle with the audience before the curtain rises to chat about Elektra, her moral dilemma, and the incontestable role the audience plays in bringing this drama to life.
More in this category
- Timon of Athens at The National Theatre
- The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar
- Red Hot Patriot at the Arena Stage, Washington, DC — Kathleen Turner as Molly Ivins,, with a Preview of the Arena Season
- A Singer’s Notes 58: Music in the Theatre